Saturday, April 16

Well, crap.

I'm writing this from the armpit of international airports, the L.C. Smith Terminal at Detroit Metro. I was lucky enough to be hauled out of my hotel three hours before my flight -- and just before room service opens (the hotel restaurant is under construction, wouldn't you just know it) -- so I got here hungry and entirely decaffeinated . . .

Now, there IS a Starbucks. Of course. So that part is handled. The only restaurant in the ENTIRE TERMINAL is one pathetic cafeteria-line Quiznos that doesn't even have tables. The rest of the terminal strongly evokes a 70s-era Greyhound bus station, but without the charm.

So . . .



The less said about the actual event, the better. Doing my Phil Donohue-on-crack impression from a stage in the four-story atrium of the Mall of America is an experience that will linger in my heart like the memory of my first colonoscopy. I won't deny a certain entertainment value: in that particular episode of the Movie of My Life, I think I was being played by Ben Stiller.

The fans, however, were not only tolerant in indulging my Thundering Four-Story Chrome-and-Glass Meltdown, but were enthusiastically egging me on . . .

Then dinner afterward, in which the astonishingly courageous Rebekah of the Minnesota FanForce braved my gang of Dead Cities hooligans and actually held her own, too. Even my smilingly wicked niece couldn't make her cry . . .

I won't go into details of the Dead Cities gang (plus friends and such) either, except to thank them for coming out -- Scott and Jenn and gabe and Joe and Claudia and Tom and Sarah (Did I get everybody's Real Name right?) -- largely because at least two of them are shortly to become considerably more famous than I am, and frankly, they just don't need the press.

Then off to Detroit, where my main memory is this friggin' airport, because my flight was delayed and there was a High-Speed Chase on the expressway (for real, and really serious, too: bank robbers and a shootout and injuries, and no jokes about it) which tangled up the roads, so we went straight from the airport to the event -- where Tom and Donna, Eldest Brother and Most Fabulous Sister-in-Law, were waiting -- and then from the event to the Original Borders store in Ann Arbor (which sleepy little college town ain't sleepy at all but in fact is HOPPIN' after eleven, would you believe it?) and then into bed after midnight, with the 5:30 wake-up so that I could catch the friggin' car and sit in this friggin' Greyhound terminal of an airport and whine about the hard life of the World Famous Star Wars Author.

Have I mentioned that I'm having a great time?

So I'm about to jump on a flight to Denver, where I actually get to stay TWO DAYS (thanks be to the gods, and to Colleen and Brandi) so that I can spend Saturday afternoon asleep in the mountain air . . .
New York --

City of Beautiful People on Nasty-Ass Sidewalks . . .

Had a wonderful time here . . . my first visit. Spent an hour or so walking Times Square around midnight. Nobody tried to sell me anything: the guys with the $5.00 Rolexes and the $10.00 Guaranteed Designer Handbags just nodded as I went past. The poor bastard hading out free tickets to Comedy Central's Premium Blend just shrugged -- THERE's a job I don't envy . . . like running a carnival kissing-booth in a leper colony . . . Even the bums -- I guess in N'Yawk you call e'm panhandlers -- just smiled. "How's it goin', big guy?" Me:"Not bad. You?" Him:"Can't complain."

This from a bum that I'd seen -- not thirty seconds earlier -- summoning tears to work a dollar off a tourist. "Come ON, man, just a dollar, what's a dollar to YOU? You know how long it's been since I had sompin to eat? Come ON, have a heart, brother . . . "

Guess I looked sullen enough that everybody thought I live here.

Did an extended interview for Book Look TV, which was just about the most fun I've had on tour so far. The host is James Michael Tyler, who you FRIENDS fans out there will know as Gunther the Coffee Dude . . . who turns out to be warm, charming and astonishingly smart (especially for an actor -- I mean, jeez, you ever hear the story about the actor who was so stupid that the other actors NOTICED?) not to mention a hard-core SF geek from way, way back.

I mean HARD core. This guy even watches ENTERPRISE. Not because he LIKES it (I told you he's smart) but -- as near as I can tell -- he just has to keep feeding that SF addiction.

And what the hell, anyway. Not everything can be STAR WARS or the new BATTLESTAR GALACTICA.

He and Chuck Cirino -- the director -- really went all-out to help the book (and camera-newbie me) look as good as they could make it, and I'm really grateful. Not to mention that they -- along with Skye Van Raalte-Herzog (who is actually as cool as her name implies, which takes some doing) had the intestinal fortitude to sit through my entire event at the Union Square Barnes & Noble so they could get it on film -- and they STILL weren't sick of me . . .
We all went out to dinner afterwards at one of those Oh-So-So Chelsea bistros, with Colleen the Publicity Guru and Chris the Marketing Maven, and JMT (as us pretentious name-droppin' wannabe types call him) told a couple of stories about his FRIENDS-related visits to Amsterdam, having to do with a certain phrase he spoke in Dutch in a certain episode -- one I cannot repeat and refuse to translate -- which not only proved that nobody at the FCC speaks Dutch, but made him into a national hero in Holland and nearly had me spewing jerked pork and plaintain out my nose.

In brief, that's New York for you.

Now, on to the Promised Land of Consumer America . . . the Largest Mall On Earth.

Well, it used to be, anyway. And it's about to be again, I guess. I'm told they heard some place in Russia passed them up, so they paved over twelve surrounding counties to open an extra three bazillion Gaps.

In round numbers.

Tuesday, April 12

Dateline Chicago, April 11 --

Did my first LIVE TV interview, in the Fox Morning News studio with Tamron Hall and David Navarro. They were great -- it was just like chatting with somebody in their living room. Somebody you've never met before. In a living room with only one wall. And lots of cameras and really bright lights. For a total of three and a half minutes.

I haven't seen the tape yet, but I've been told it went really well.

When David Navarro pushed me for a spoiler, I told him "Jar-Jar Binks has a very, VERY tiny part . . ."

Which got applause from the camera crew and sound guy.

Then we whipped over to the Merchandise Mart to do the Mancow in the Morning show on WKQX FM -- Q101 to you Chicago types -- and those of you who live in Chicago know who the Mancow is already.

It was live. It was fun. It was half an hour of deflecting questions about whether Darth Vader is secretly gay and refers to his weapon as a . . . well, he could say it on the radio, but I'm not gonna put it in print on a G-rated AOL blog, that's for damn sure.

So I just gave him a flat deadpan that all this was covered by the confidentiality clause in my contract . . .

Anyway, he turns out to be a really friendly guy, off the air (on the air, he's the friggin' Tazmanian Devil), and I signed a copy of the book for him, even though he admitted to being primarily a fan of the Other Franchise (those touchy-feely Prime Directive wussies . . .).

And we had a Dead Cities sighting -- Hey, cl, glad you made it . . .

The saddest part of the event was when one guy asked me, "If you had written the rest of the NJO [post-TRAITOR], would Jacen have gotten together with Tenel Ka?" and I had to tell him the truth. Because that's who I am: straight question, straight answer.

I didn't tell him the rest of the things that WOULD have happened if I'd written the rest of the NJO. I didn't want to give the poor bastard nightmares.

And now, we interrupt this blog for an Unsolicited Testimonial:

When I left on tour, I took a couple books with me, one of which was Stephen R. Donaldson's RUNES OF THE EARTH, Book One of the Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.

In the interests of full disclosure, I'm going to tell you that I've had the honor of meeting Steve Donaldson a few times since I've been in the biz, and I'm proud to claim him as a friend.

That, however, has absolutely nothing to do with the following.

This book ROCKS.

Listen: Stephen R. Donaldson's Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever is the main reason I'm a novelist today. I read those books when they came out back in the late Seventies -- just as I was entering college -- and they were literally the epiphany that revealed to me that grown-up fantasy literature could be exactly that.

Grown-up. Literature.

While I was in college the Second Chronicles came out, and I love them too.

He was using a fantastic setting and events that resonated on a mythic scale to examine real-life issues of guilt, power, duty and responsibility, love and loss and gods I don't know what all, and those books rocked my world and all I've ever tried to do is knock people over the way those books knocked me.

And no too long ago he brought out his first new novel about the Land and Covenant's legacy in twenty years, and I've just been too busy (with REVENGE OF THE SITH, by no coincidence at all, and with CAINE BLACK KNIFE) to read it . . .

Until now. I finished it just before I got on the flight back to Chicago.

I confess to being a fan: Mordant's Need and DAUGHTER OF REGALS and REAVE THE JUST and the Gap . . . But nonetheless, the Land is the Land.

I'm here to tell you that the Land is STILL the Land.

Vintage Donaldson. Like great wine.

Loved it.

Sunday, April 10

For regular readers, I have to apologize for the generalized reportorial tone of this and the last few posts -- and for what will be the next ones, too. These have to serve double duty. In case you didn't know, my tour blog is also being carried on the AOL MovieFone site, and so I'm keeping it G-Rated.

So there's no ratcock goatfucking in the text. For a while anyway.

Jacksonville --

Beautiful city. Which I know is hard to believe for people who haven't been here for a few years. But this place just sparkles. Everything is bright and clean, the buildings look freshly scrubbed, the bridges are painted and lit at night and everything's open and full of trees and man, I just really liked it a lot.

Had my first Big-Time Local TV interview -- nice warm-up for Chicago, where I face the Fox Morning crew. Down here it was the lovely and professional Kathleen O'Toole, at the WTLV studio, which has the unusual distinction of being double-affiliated -- apparently it's both NBC *and* ABC . . . exactly how that works in prime-time is more than I can fathom, but hey, programming ain't my department. I just sit in the chair and answer questions.

And Justin? I was indeed wearing the shirt . . .

And thanks to Betty Metz and her immaculate snow-white Mercedes, I was early for the interview and the event, and managed to enjoy my very first bison tenderloin at a Ted's Montana Grill (or whatever the hell Turner's chain is calling itself these days). Anyway, it was Betty's suggestion, and it was outstanding, as was her company.

Which brings us to the Books-A-Million event at the Orange Park Mall, which was . . .


For me, anyway. About two hundred and fifty people stood around to listen to me read the Introduction and answer a few questions, then waited in a line (some for more than two hours! after driving more than two hours! -- they really DO understand the Power of the Dark Side . . .) that just seemed to keep growing and growing and growing.

Thanks again to the 501st, and to the Jax FanForce for coming out -- here we had our first appearance by Mara Jade, which is also, I believe, the first appearance by a 100% EU character. Seeing as how the film of REVENGE OF THE SITH will be the very first one to feature a cameo by a character created for the EU, I thought it was exceedingly appropriate.

Also fielded a question from the audience about CAINE BLACK KNIFE -- my current post-Star Wars project, for those newbies out there -- that this morning, from checking the legendary fan-forum TheForce.Net, I discovered came from none other than the legendary Errant Venture himself!

EV -- you should have ID'd yourself by handle, man . . . I don't recognize you guys by your *real* names, y'know.

Now I'm on my way to Chicago, for my one and only Day Off, before the Big Borders Event on State Street, Monday at 12:30.

Chicago fantypes, we'll see youse guys dere!

Saturday, April 9

April 8

Leaving Washington DC --

Finally on a jet-sized jet, and thank the gods for it, too, because Zeus is having a little fun with us today: we're bouncing around like a handful of jumping beans inside a pachinko machine.

DC was a great stop, at least partly due to the Organizator, Paul Peachey, my escort for both days. He could give lessons to C-3P0. This guy had a mental map of all the major bookstores en route to the events, and had them primed and prepared for our arrival so that -- both days -- I had stock-signed something like 300 books before I even got to the actual signings. Both days. He claimed his secret plan was to make UNsigned copies into the DC-area Hot Collectible . . .

Thanks again to the 501st, out for both events. At Olssons, we even had a published SFF novelist as the Sith in Black Armor Himself: no less than Roger Sharp, author of PSYCLONE.

Did an interview with Eye On Books' Bill Thompson, who (as it happens) is a Downstate Illinoisian like myself. I'm counting on that homestate connection; maybe he'll edit out any idiot remarks that may have slipped through the clutch-gap between my second-gear brain and fifth-gear mouth.

And I had a live -- or semi-live tape-delay -- interview on a Jacksonville morning-zoo-style radio show that included a Star Wars Geek-Off against their resident fandroid, whose name is claimed to be Amadeus. This, I must point out, was not only at ten minutes before eight this morning, but until I picked up the phone I had no idea it was going to be

1) live,
2) raucous, and
3) mildly razzing on Us Fans.

I can hold my own, though. When they asked me who was the weirdest geek I'd had to deal with at a signing so far, I told them, "Oh, they never get really bad -- it's not like they're talk radio hosts or anything . . ."

Thursday, April 7

Posting a day late, due to Internet problems at the previous hotel and extreme exhaustion last night . . .

The Buffalo Barnes and Noble put on a great event; I don't have the final numbers, but I'm pretty sure we sold around two hundred books tonight, and the North Ridge -- Buffalo FanForce -- came out in force, if you can stand the tired half a pun, and we had our very first Chewbacca, eight feet tall and hairy as a Neanderthal on Rogaine. He was popular, too -- I signed one book for a B&N employee who called herself WookieeLover . . .

I guess -- unlike Princess Leia -- she WOULD rather kiss a Wookiee.

This event also saw the first Luke Skywalker of the tour. Just think: only hours old, and already walking, talking and carrying a lightsaber . . .

My TV interview was with a terrific kid named Colin, who was doing the interview for his school's CCTV news, and it was a gas. He'll probably end up anchoring 60 MINUTES.

The store manager had me sign the rest of the stock -- about 250 (!) more books, because he figured that when the article in the newspaper came out (I did a brief interview before the event) they'd sell 'em before the end of the week . . .

He also told me that as of tomorrow -- that is, today, Wednesday -- REVENGE OF THE SITH would be appearing on the Barnes & Noble Bestsellers list, which is very cool indeed.

Apologies to the wonderful fans from North Ridge for my abject failure to hang out post-event -- I barely managed to keep my eyes open long enough to get room service at the hotel -- and thanks for the honorary induction and the plaque; I'll be starting a tour wall in my office, and yours will be the first one hung, provided I can get it home intact.

Now I'm off to Washington for my first INTENTIONAL two-day stopover of the tour.

Tuesday, April 5

Dateline Boston, Logan Airport --

which is pretty damned nice in and of itself.

I got flagged as a security risk by US Airways, and so was subjected to my very first full patdown. Despite my request, said frisk was NOT performed by the nice-looking young brunette, but rather by a cheerfully efficient middle-aged bald guy.

Maybe I'll have better luck with my first strip-search.

Anyway, they were very thorough, which I actually appreciated. I thanked them when they were done. I WANT them to be thorough. That's what they're there for.

So the event at the Harvard Coop last night was pretty cool. About sixty or seventy people -- less then I was hoping for -- but the intro I got from the event coordinator was so good I wish I had a copy to post on this blog. This guy had not only read the book, but he understands exactly what is involved in making a novel out of a novelization . . . he was great, and I don't even remember his name. Richard was his first name; I didn't get his last.

And another thing: a young man offered an essay to me in a white envelope, one that he'd written for his English class. And I am such a thoughtless, ignorant, puddle-brained bastard that I somehow let it get buried in the stock signing I did after the event and left it behind.

But this is where the people at the Coop -- led by the aforementioned Richard and the thoughtful Karen Porter (whose name I know because she's the contact on my itinerary) -- they found it, and they're sending it to a certain very good friend of mine . . . along with a copy of Richard introductory essay. Which I hope he'll give me permission to post.

As for the young man's English paper -- I won't forget it again. I'll read it, and I'll tell you what I think of it. I promise.

Now, on to the reason I became the aforementioned puddle-brained bastard. The reason I can't even remember the name of the guy who gave me that stellar introduction. It's that aforementioned very good friend of mine.

It was because when I was walking in to do the event, I bumped into Bob Salvatore.


Just showed up. Because he's a great guy, and a really good friend, and he knew I'd already be more than ready to see a familiar face.

It was a gas. Shit, he asked the first question in the Q&A. I didn't point him out to the audience because, frankly, it was MY book signing and people would have instantly stopped paying attention to what I was saying because I may be Matthew Woodring Stover but he's Bob fucking Salvatore, y'know? I also didn't know if any of the fanboys in the audience still might be carrying a grudge over the unexpected Major Character demise in VECTOR PRIME . . . in fact, one of them admitted to me privately that he had been among those slagging Bob online back when VP came out, but that he'd since changed his mind about the book and thought it was really good. I told him that he probably shouldn't mention the part about the online slagging . . .

I did get to tell the story of how Bob and Mike Stackpole bullied me into writing Star Wars in the first place, and after the Q&A he came up to the table with me and hung out, which was really cool -- he didn't push himself in at all, but the fans who recognized him were kinda knocked out to find the authors of AotC and RotS together again for the first time.

I also got to have dinner with him afterwards -- hell, he even picked up the check, which'll make Colleen's tour-budgeteers smile . . .

While I'm talking Boston, I have to plug the Hotel Commonwealth, which was absolutely stellar -- the accomodations are lovely and the staff was impeccable. Listen, in my other life I work in a hotel; I know exactly what it takes to maintain even competence, let alone mastery. I have never received finer service.

I also should mention the hotel restaurant, Great Bay, which was INCREDIBLE. I worked four years in a four-star restaurant, under two of the finest chefs in the United States. I know a little bit about good food. The diver-caught sea scallops with blood-orange reduction over risotto-style Carolina rice were so good that they bafffle my powers of description. Bob and his buddy were similarly stunned by the sheer, stupendous goodness of everything they tasted. I saw a sign by the door that said Esquire Magazine had named Great Bay as the best new restaurant in Boston. Well, I haven't been to any other restaurants in Boston, but I've been to plenty in plenty of other cities, and the food here was as good as any I have ever had in my mouth. Period.

And I have to mention Jim and Ginny Bride, who were my escorts. They were both great -- great company, enthusiastic and indefatigable tour guides, friendly and knowledgable and all-around swell: setting the standard to which all other escorts will have trouble living up to.

Off to Buffalo!

Update --

Here I am in Buffalo. Just had some wings. They're better in Chicago.

Now I'm off for my very first TV appearance in which I play myself . . .

Tally Ho!

Monday, April 4

Leaving Raleigh --

I'm off to Boston on the smallest friggin' jet I've ever been on. It's about the size of my car. If we have to make an emergency landing, I'll put the goddamn thing in my pocket and WALK the rest of the way.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention one of the truly coolest feature of the event at Quail Ridge the other night. The event coordinator -- the guy who introduced me -- is Clay Griffith.

Who is the current writer of THE TICK.

No, I'm not kidding.


He's decidedly cool, too -- about my age, but better looking. And with great hair.

Saw the AP news release. Funny how stuff gets twisted around. I really have to learn to just say No Fucking Comment.

I mean, this guy was asking me WHY I wrote REVENGE OF THE SITH. Simple question. And I told him the truth: I jumped at the chance to be part of the the most important cultural pop-mythic cycle in American history. Not to mention that the money's good, and the exposure's great.

So he jumps on the money. "How much did you get paid?"

Being WASPY, I don't want to say. That's where I should have said No Fucking Comment.

"Was it huge?"


"Can I say it was a six-figure advance?"

"Uh, well, no --"

"Not even six-figures? Jeez."

"Look, I --"

"High five figures?"

"Yeah, sure. High five figures."

"And royalties?"

"Writing Star Wars isn't about the royalties -- the royalties aren't much for tie-in fiction. It's about the exposure -- I go from a respected but little-known fantasy writers to one of the best-known-fantasy writers in America practically overniight. But mostly it's what I was talking about before --"

And somehow, in the article, the whole business about the privilege of being able to participate in the central pop-cultural mythic cycle of the 20th Century just got lost in the shuffle . . .

I'll know better next time.

Sunday, April 3

Raleigh NC April 2 (& 3rd . . . see below)

Raleigh NC April 2 (& 3rd . . . see below)

The Great Friggin' Gonzo Revenge of the Sith Tour is officially under way!

Kicked it off this afternoon at Wal-Mart SuperCenter Store #5118 in Raleigh NC, and it was a party . . . the whole staff was so pumped to sell Star Wars that I had to do a 45-minute meet & greet in the employee lunch-room before the actual event -- and I think I signed more books for the employees than I did for the customers.

Which is cool by me.

A sale's a sale, baby . . .

And the NC Garrison of the 501st Storm Trooper Battalion turned out, too, so that I had a pair of clone troopers, a Red Guard, an Imperial pilot, Boba friggin' Fett and Darth by-God VADER doing CROWD control . . .

It was pretty cool.

And I got to meet in person for the very first time one of my long-time friends, HAWKi102, who I've been corresponding with for a couple years now, and discover that he's a perfectly normal-looking guy, with a very understanding moms-type in tow. Great to meet you, Steve.

Why do I always expect my fans to look like demented homeless cattle-mutilators?

And there was Shane, too (aka tyshalle83, brave lad) -- also entirely human. And towing the lovely Allison (did I get your name right? I met a lot of people today) [EDIT: AMBER, dammit, sorry about that], thus proving that my fans are not only handsome folk, but attractive to the opposite sex.

How did this happen?

In fact, over all, I'd have to say that my fans are all singularly goodlooking people (in addition to their obvious intelligence and stellar taste).

Later --

Did my first reading -- at Quail Ridge, a vastly cool independent store here. Of course, I'm kind of a small-timer round these parts, seeing as how they've also recently hosted none other than the legendary Zahn . . . not to mention Greg Keyes . . .

The 501st was here as well, and this time they hung out after the event and took off the armor -- without getting conspicuously naked, so forget about pictures -- and took me out to dinner, and proved my earlier contention applies not only to my fans, but to Star Wars fans in general.

I mean, I've been to a LOT of cons. SFF fans are a pack of scruffy-lookin' nerfherders, and not only will few of them deny it, most would be offended if I were to suggest otherwise.

Star Wars fans, tho' . . . these are good-looking people. I mean, you can't squeeze a fat ass into that storm trooper armor, you know what I mean? Hell, one of the troopers at Wal-Mart was a REAL trooper -- he could honest-to-Christ quickdraw his friggin' blaster, because he's an honest-to-Christ deputy sheriff. Two others are officers in the Air Force, for Christ's sake -- there was Navy represented, too. These aren't your Living-in-Mom's-Basement-Wearing-Spock-Ears types, y'know?

Later still --

Hey, Raleigh loves me so much it doesn't want to let me go. The US Airways shuttle to Pittsburgh turned around in midair and went back to the airport. In Pittsburgh. It never even got here. And then it was cancelled without explanation. And then US Airways politely explained that all other flights to Pittsburgh were already overbooked. Until 10:50 PM, which would make me a bit late for my 2:00 Talk & Signing at the Barnes & Noble #2898 on Freeport, which will consequently be deprived of my company.

Sorry, folks. Shit happens. Apparently it happens to US Airways quite a bit -- the next thing they did was start taking volunteers to skip the oversold flight to New York that was the next one out of the same gate . . .

The good news is that I get to spend an extra night in the Raleigh Sheraton, where people are very nice to me indeed, and the food's really good, and the Young Christian conference that was having a picnic in the hallway outside my room yesterday (no, I'm not kidding) seems to have evaporated, so I'm gonna quit blathering on about things now and get to work on CAINE BLACK KNIFE.

I'll see folks in Boston tomorrow . . .